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Research Prominence

William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


Guided walking tour of Belle Park will highlight project research

Join Mary Louise Adams (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) and Alexander Braun (Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) for a guided walking tour of the Belle Park Project, a University Research Project funded by the Social Sciences and Research Council (SSHRC), on Sunday, Oct. 17, 3-5 pm, at Belle Park.

Full details can be found on the Belle Park Project website.

The tour will focus on what has been learned from research in Belle Park and on the questions that are emerging in relation to the proposed remediation of the Tannery lands and the Inner Harbour. Drs. Adams and Braun will discuss the social, cultural and environmental situation of Belle Park, a conglomerate of human and natural ecosystems.

The walk will be on the gravel service road along the south end of the park and overlooking the Tannery lands.

This event is free to attend and open to all. No registration required. COVID protocols apply, so please bring a mask and maintain proper distancing.

*Rain date: Tuesday. Oct. 19 4-6 pm.

Queen’s research shedding new light on blood clots

Blood clot research from 2007 by Queen’s experts generates new interest from COVID-19 pandemic

Queen’s researcher and professor Maha Othman (Biomedical and Molecular Science) has been fascinated by blood since she realized it is involved in almost every human disease, regardless of the body organ or system. She trained in clinical pathology with a specialization in hematology and hemostasis — bleeding and clotting disorders. She now uses this knowledge to improve diagnosis and management of rare bleeding disorders and better assess the risk of pregnancy and cancer-associated blood clots.

Dr. Maha Othman
Research by Dr. Maha Othman (Biomedical and Molecular Science) from 2007 is back in the spotlight.

Dr. Othman’s research going as far back as 15 years ago is once again being debated and discussed in major publications such as Nature, as reports of blood clots associated with certain COVID-19 vaccines began occurring. Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — a blood clot following a vaccine — is a very rare side effect that happens in a subset of population following AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccination.

“I must emphasize that the incidence of VITT is extremely low and the risk of death and serious outcomes of COVID-19, including thrombosis, far outweigh the risk of VITT,” says Dr. Othman. “Public education and transparency are key. The pandemic is still evolving and research findings are updated daily so we need to be both patient and open to new theories.”

The main question that researchers are asking is what triggers VITT and why it has been diagnosed follow AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccinations but not the other vaccines. AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines use adenovirus as the vehicle to deliver DNA code for viral protein, which triggers the immune system to create the protective antibodies against COVID-19. This is different from vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer which deliver mRNA for that protein directly rather than via the adenovirus vehicle.

A decade and a half ago, Dr. Othman was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of David Lillicrap, a Queen’s professor and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Hemostasis. Dr. Othman spent three years examining the direct interaction and effects of adenovirus with blood platelets and coagulation. She found that adenovirus could stimulate and overwork the platelets so they couldn’t regenerate fast enough, causing thrombocytopenia — a low level of platelets. However, the stimulated platelets could also activate the clotting system, which could then increase a person’s risk for blood clots.

“We knew 15 years ago that adenovirus vectors in the blood can stimulate platelets, trigger blood clotting and causes thrombocytopenia — but even to me, I didn’t connect the dots, until VITT was reported with two, not one, COVID-19 vaccines with adenoviral technology,” says Dr. Othman.

Her paper from over a decade ago has been cited in nearly all of the papers coming out about VITT. In less than two months this past spring over 30 articles were published on VITT.

Dr. Othman thinks adenovirus must play a role, at least partially, into why VITT shows up after AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccinations but not the other vaccines.

She recently collaborated with an expert international group of hematologists, laboratory scientists, virologists and vaccinologists, including Dr. Lillicrap and led a new paper in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. It looks at VITT and discusses seven potential reasons behind the condition.

“The good news is we now know how to diagnose and how to treat the condition. By the end of this year, we are likely to establish a pathogenic model that helps us better understand and even prevent VITT,” says Dr. Othman. “I still believe the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of having side effects of vaccines, and I encourage people to get their vaccination if not already done so to protect themselves and their communities.”

Experts discuss resiliency during COVID-19

On Oct. 14, Queen’s researchers and alumni will provide insight into our post-pandemic future.

[Road to Recovery: Resilience - Queen's Virtual Event]

With ongoing vaccine distribution, increasing vaccination rates, and case numbers decreasing in Canada, there is an opportunity to have thoughtful and candid conversations about the future beyond COVID-19. The pandemic and its impact continue to evolve and so do our questions about how it affects us all, on a local to a global scale. From examining the implications of the fourth wave and variants of concern to a greater focus on what economic recovery looks like and what changes in social norms mean going forward, there is an opportunity to reflect on how resiliency has shaped our actions during the pandemic and will continue to do so for the future.

Offered as part of the virtual Homecoming lineup this year, University Relations and the Office of Advancement have teamed up to present another installment of the free and open-to-the-public Road to Recovery event series on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. EDT. Queen’s alumnus Elamin Abdelmahmoud (Artsci’11) will reprise his role as moderator for this edition on resilience. Host of CBC’s weekly pop culture podcast Pop Chat, co-host of CBC’s political podcast Party Lines, and culture editor for Buzzfeed News, Abdelmahmoud will provide expert insight into what is top of mind for Canadians and ask the questions we all have about this next stage of the pandemic.

Joining Abdelmahmoud for the discussion will be experts in economic recovery, politics, public opinion, and health care. They are:

  • Christopher Cotton – Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy at Queen’s University and member of the Royal Society of Canada’s COVID-19 Working Group on Economic Recovery and Global Canada’s COVID Strategic Choices Group
  • Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant – Professor in the Department of Political Studies, Director of the Canadian Opinion Archive at Queen’s University, and author of Gendered News: Media Coverage and Electoral Politics in Canada
  • Rico Garcia Ondarza – President of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) and Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company focused on economic, financial, and sector-based strategy development for government and public sector institutions
  • Gerald Evans – Chair, Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University and member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the Ontario COVID-19 Testing Strategy and Policy Task Force and the Ontario COVID-19 Behavioural Sciences Working Group

 Join the Q&A discussion and register for the Road to Recovery: Resilience.

Canada must change gears, move faster on sustainable finance, concludes expert report

Expert-driven assessment comes as sustainable finance becomes increasingly essential to Canada’s global competitiveness.

The Institute of Sustainable Finance launched a new report Thursday assessing Canada’s progress to scale sustainable finance and bolster Canadian competitiveness. The report, Changing Gears: Sustainable Finance Progress in Canada, uses the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance’s 2019 recommendations as its starting point, and reveals that while progress has been made against the recommendations, Canada needs to move faster in aligning financial systems with a global low-carbon transition.

In his foreword to the report, Andy Chisholm, member of the Expert Panel and RBC Board Director, notes: “The central message from this ISF report is that we can and must do better; time is of the essence and Canada needs to up its game in its efforts to develop a competitive and sustainable economy, which supports an inclusive and successful transition to net-zero. This analysis is not a surprise, but it is another wake up call to the public and private sectors that timely implementation is critical.”   

The report’s conclusion is informed by interviews with 35 leading Canadian experts in sustainable finance, including the Governor of the Bank of Canada, leaders from the “Big Five” Canadian banks, representatives from Canada’s largest insurance companies and pension funds, global market experts and investors. They note Canada is being outpaced globally – and its overly cautious approach has left the country in a “catch up” position. Meanwhile, public and private sector initiatives elsewhere continue to set the tone and direction for the sustainable finance policies and practices that are reshaping the global economic landscape. 

“As the world rushes ahead, our public and private sector must shift into a higher gear,” says Sean Cleary, Chair of ISF and the report’s co-author. “By taking decisive action now, we can propel the Canadian-specific solutions that our industries need to thrive over the next three decades.”

According to the report’s findings, the next step is catching up fast on the table stakes – policy certainty and decision-useful information – which includes mandating disclosures and clarifying the scope of fiduciary duty in law and practice. This point is underlined by Margaret Childe, Head of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) for Manulife Investment Management, who notes in the report: “Wh(at still remains a challenge (for asset managers and investors) is the lack of clarity around what are the duties around the consideration of ESG factors in the investment process. Particularly on the asset owner side - pensions are looking for clarification.”

Simultaneously, the report underlines the importance of getting more investment flowing towards clean innovation in Canadian sectors, which will require cooperation between the public sector, private sector, and financial system.

“Our interviews reveal that from capitalizing on hydrogen and mineral-to-battery supply chain opportunities, to electrification, building retrofits, and building climate smart infrastructure – we know where money needs to flow to build the resilient economy and industries Canadian competitiveness depends on,” says Sara Alvarado, Executive Director for ISF.

The report also highlights Canada can step in and be the responsible supplier of choice for minerals. Andrew Hall, Director of Sustainable Finance for TMX Group, notes, “As a resource-based economy, Canada has a unique opportunity to be a major producer of low-carbon commodities and minerals contributing to a net-zero economy.”

The report outlines seven themes:

1. Accelerated action and execution is needed. Canada must catch up to Europe and the UK. The private financial sector is now moving faster than the government and regulators in Canada.

2. Our financial ecosystem needs to embrace change. There is strong support for Canada’s investment industry and financial institutions to shift their attitudes and behaviours.

3. Canadian-specific solutions are required. This includes sector-specific decarbonization pathways and transition scenarios that are supported by research within a Canadian context.

4. Sustainable finance must include more than climate. In the context of COVID-19 and Canada’s reckoning with the urgency of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, there is a need for a broader, more inclusive, and socially concerned sustainable finance conversation.

5. Canada’s net-zero transition requires a more unified approach and narrative. This means a more centralized voice and perspective for the country on sustainable finance and the net-zero transition, as well as strengthened communication.

6. While climate mitigation is critical, we need a greater focus on adaptation and resiliency. Climate resilience and adaptation have continued to be priorities as climate change impacts become more apparent.

7. Clean Innovation and other opportunities need more support. The importance of capitalizing on cleantech opportunities, as well as our lack of progress to date in doing so, is of utmost concern.

Visit the Institute for Sustainable Finance’s website to read the report, as well as review all past research projects. 


About the Institute for Sustainable Finance

ISF was launched in 2019 as a Canadian-specific centre of expertise and collaboration for advancing sustainable finance. Housed at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, ISF is independent and non-partisan. It focuses on developing research, education, and collaborations among academia, business and government that will improve Canada’s capacity for sustainable finance as the shift to a low-carbon economy occurs.

Sustainable finance is the integration of environmental, social and governance considerations into capital flows such as lending and investment, risk management, and financial processes including disclosure, valuations and oversight.

ISF’s work is generously supported by The Ivey Foundation (inaugural supporter), the McConnell Foundation, the McCall MacBain Foundation, the Chisholm Thomson Family Foundation, Smith School of Business, Queen’s University and Founding Contributors BMO, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and TD Bank Group.

CIMVHR Virtual Forum 2021 kicks off Sept. 29

The Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research’s (CIMVHR) annual forum, focused on military, veteran, family, and public safety personnel health research, will be hosted virtually for the first time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A kickoff event for CIMVHR Virtual Forum 2021 will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 29, followed by a poster session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

During the kickoff event participants will hear from featured speaker Maj. Gen. J.G.M. Bilodeau, Surgeon General of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group, and keynote speaker Dr. Ruth Lanius, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Harris-Woodman Chair at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine.

Four more virtual events will be held each Thursday in October: Oct. 7 – Serving Military Streams; Oct. 14 – Veteran Streams; Oct. 21 – Family and Serving Military Streams; Oct. 28 – Public Safety Personnel and Military Streams. Overall, more than 64 presentations on current research will be made. The full schedule and list of presentations can be found at the CIMVHR Forum website. Registration is available online.          

“Hosting a virtual event is the best decision for the health and safety of CIMVHR’s many stakeholders who attend, present, and sponsor CIMVHR’s forum,” says Dr. David Pedlar, Scientific Director of CIMVHR. “Our symposium series held last October, the first virtual conference for CIMVHR, was a great success and provided many valuable lessons that we will carry forward into CIMVHR Virtual Forum 2021.  It is important that we continue to share the latest research and knowledge from leaders in the field. A virtual format for Forum 2021 will ensure that the research continues to be presented to other experts, knowledge users and funders.”

CIMVHR is a university centre based within the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s. The only pan-national institute within the military, veteran, and family health research international landscape, CIMVHR is a network of 45 Canadian university members and 13 global affiliates, serving as the hub for research, relationships, and impact within the academic military, veteran, and family health research community.

CIMVHR Virtual Forum 2021 has been approved for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits.

CIMVHR Forum 2022 is scheduled to be held Oct. 17-19 in Halifax.

Google and Microsoft are creating a monopoly on coding in plain language

Natural language coding means that people won’t need to learn specialized coding languages to write programs or design websites. But large corporations will control the means of translation.

A laptop computer with multi-coloured lines of coding on its screen.
Coding is a specialized skill that requires learning one or more computer languages. (Unsplash/Arnold Francisca)

Sometimes major shifts happen virtually unnoticed. On May 5, IBM announced Project CodeNet to very little media or academic attention.

CodeNet is a follow-up to ImageNet, a large-scale dataset of images and their descriptions; the images are free for non-commercial uses. ImageNet is now central to the progress of deep learning computer vision.

CodeNet is an attempt to do for Artifical Intelligence (AI) coding what ImageNet did for computer vision: it is a dataset of over 14 million code samples, covering 50 programming languages, intended to solve 4,000 coding problems. The dataset also contains numerous additional data, such as the amount of memory required for software to run and log outputs of running code.

Accelerating machine learning

IBM’s own stated rationale for CodeNet is that it is designed to swiftly update legacy systems programmed in outdated code, a development long-awaited since the Y2K panic over 20 years ago, when many believed that undocumented legacy systems could fail with disastrous consequences.

However, as security researchers, we believe the most important implication of CodeNet — and similar projects — is the potential for lowering barriers, and the possibility of Natural Language Coding (NLC).

In recent years, companies such as OpenAI and Google have been rapidly improving Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies. These are machine learning-driven programs designed to better understand and mimic natural human language and translate between different languages. Training machine learning systems requires access to a large dataset with texts written in the desired human languages. NLC applies all this to coding too.

Coding is a difficult skill to learn let alone master and an experienced coder would be expected to be proficient in multiple programming languages. NLC, in contrast, leverages NLP technologies and a vast database such as CodeNet to enable anyone to use English, or ultimately French or Chinese or any other natural language, to code. It could make tasks like designing a website as simple as typing “make a red background with an image of an airplane on it, my company logo in the middle and a contact me button underneath,” and that exact website would spring into existence, the result of automatic translation of natural language to code.

It is clear that IBM was not alone in its thinking. GPT-3, OpenAI’s industry-leading NLP model, has been used to allow coding a website or app by writing a description of what you want. Soon after IBM’s news, Microsoft announced it had secured exclusive rights to GPT-3.

Microsoft also owns GitHub, — the largest collection of open source code on the internet — acquired in 2018. The company has added to GitHub’s potential with GitHub Copilot, an AI assistant. When the programmer inputs the action they want to code, Copilot generates a coding sample that could achieve what they specified. The programmer can then accept the AI-generated sample, edit it or reject it, drastically simplifying the coding process. Copilot is a huge step towards NLC, but it is not there yet.

Children sit in front of screens in a classroom.
Plain-language coding will make programming and design more accessible and remove the need for specialized training. (Shutterstock)

Consequences of natural language coding

Although NLC is not yet fully feasible, we are moving quickly towards a future where coding is much more accessible to the average person. The implications are huge.

First, there are consequences for research and development. It is argued that the greater the number of potential innovators, the higher the rate of innovation. By removing barriers to coding, the potential for innovation through programming expands.

Further, academic disciplines as varied as computational physics and statistical sociology increasingly rely on custom computer programs to process data. Decreasing the skill required to create these programs would increase the ability of researchers in specialized fields outside computer sciences to deploy such methods and make new discoveries.

However, there are also dangers. Ironically, one is the de-democratization of coding. Currently, numerous coding platforms exist. Some of these platforms offer varied features that different programmers favour, however none offer a competitive advantage. A new programmer could easily use a free, “bare bones” coding terminal and be at little disadvantage.

However, AI at the level required for NLC is not cheap to develop or deploy, and is likely to be monopolized by major platform corporations such as Microsoft, Google or IBM. The service may be offered for a fee or, like most social media services, for free but with unfavourable or exploitative conditions for its use.

There is also reason to believe that such technologies will be dominated by platform corporations due to the way machine learning works. Theoretically, programs such as Copilot improve when introduced to new data: the more they are used, the better they become. This makes it harder for new competitors, even if they have a stronger or more ethical product.

Unless there is a serious counter effort, it seems likely that large capitalist conglomerates will be the gatekeepers of the next coding revolution.The Conversation


David Murakami Wood, Associate Professor in Sociology, Queen's University and David Eliot, Masters Student, Surveillance Studies, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Access to essential cancer medicines is unequal globally

A new study by researchers from Queen’s University and the World Health Organization assesses the most important cancer medications and their accessibility.

Patients in most countries of the world do not have access to basic cancer medicines, according to new research from Queen’s University's Christopher Booth (Oncology) and collaborators at the World Health Organization (WHO). Their paper, published in The Lancet Oncology, asked oncologists worldwide to list the most important cancer medicines and to describe whether patients could access these medicines in their home country.

Dr. Booth, whose research program explores how cancer care can be optimally delivered in routine practice, become involved in global oncology after taking a sabbatical in India in 2016. Global oncology is a movement that seeks to ensure patients have access to high quality and affordable cancer care regardless of where they live.

For the past few years, Dr. Booth, who is the Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care, has served on the WHO essential cancer medicines working group, where they provide advice to the WHO about which cancer medicines should be prioritized by governments and health systems worldwide. Since 1977, the WHO updates and releases an Essential Medicines List (EML) every two years. This list helps policy-makers worldwide prioritize which medicines to provide for patients.

Dr. Christopher Booth, Queen's University professor and Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care.

To gather information for the paper, Dr. Booth and his team surveyed 948 frontline cancer doctors from 82 countries to learn which cancer medicines they considered the most important for patient care. The research team found that the most important medicines identified by oncologists are primarily older inexpensive chemotherapy and hormone medicines. With one exception, all of the top 20 high-priority cancer medicines are already included on the EML. Oncologists consider these medicines to be the most important because they have large benefits for patients across many common cancers.

The second major finding was that in most health systems, patients are unable to afford even these basic cancer medicines. In lower/middle-income countries, most patients face major financial barriers to accessing anticancer medications — even the older, generic, and inexpensive chemotherapy drugs. Financial barriers were identified in many high-income countries as well.

“Our research team hopes that these data will highlight the massive problem faced by most patients worldwide who cannot access essential cancer medicines because they are unaffordable,” Dr. Booth says. “The oncology community needs to speak in solidarity and work with health system leaders to change the way in which cancer medicines are purchased and distributed. We can learn from our colleagues in the HIV community who faced similar problems decades ago — through advocacy and by using a variety of policy tools they were able to make HIV medicines more affordable for patients worldwide.”

Dr. Booth hopes this research draws attention to the problem of access. The next step will be to better understand specific barriers to accessing affordable cancer care in each health system. While there are a variety of drug policy tools that can be used to make medicines more affordable, it will take advocacy by oncologists, patients, and the public to make this happen.

“The most surprising, and sobering, finding was that even very old, generic, inexpensive chemotherapy drugs remain out of reach for most patients globally due to cost. This is tragic as many of these medicines have a huge impact on patient survival,” Dr. Booth says. “The oncology community and the general public should not tolerate a system in which the country into which you are born will largely dictate your chances of surviving cancer. We can do better than this.”

For more information, read the article in The Lancet Oncology.

Rewilding the estate

How sustainability and biodiversity initiatives are core to the mandate of the Bader International Study Centre.

[The Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in East Sussex, England encompasses more than 600 acres of land]
The Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in East Sussex, England encompasses more than 600 acres of land. (Supplied Photo)

This spring, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings revealed that Queen’s University had placed first in Canada and fifth in the world in its global ranking of universities that are advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Queen’s earned its Impact Ranking after successfully implementing programs to improve sustainability within and outside of the local Kingston community. But these efforts also extend “across the pond.” On the grounds of Queen’s UK campus, the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England, sustainability and biodiversity are combined to help nurture and preserve the natural environment, while providing a living lab for students, staff, and members of the public. 

The BISC estate encompasses more than 600 acres of land containing medieval parklands, ancient woodlands, meadows, ponds, marshlands, and formal gardens. Over the centuries, numerous changes, both inside and outside the castle walls, have resulted in a loss of biodiversity and preservation of these lands. In order to improve and restore the estate’s surrounding environment, Grounds and Gardens Manager Guy Lucas and his team of gardeners and grounds staff are implementing sustainable ecological practices such as rewilding to repair damaged ecosystems and restore the grounds to their original state through natural processes. 

  • [Photo of the bluebells among the ancient woodland]
    The ancient bluebell woodland set within the BISC's historic parkland.
  • [Photo of a woodland path on the estate]
    The woodlands form part of the castle's historic parkland supporting over three hundred acres of diverse wildlife and plants including ancient oaks and sweet chestnut trees.
  • [Photo of the wildflower meadow]
    Explore the winding paths among the five-acre native wildflower meadow dedicated to conservation at the BISC.
  • [Photo of Temple Field]
    Temple Field is enclosed by woodland and leads to the Folly with its own walled cottage garden within the castle grounds.

Supporting biodiversity

Lucas and his team’s efforts to rewild large areas of the estate are at the forefront of BISC’s biodiversity initiatives. A major part of this process will include the removal of non-native and invasive species and the planting of native varieties to provide a mixed species and age structure within the woodland. Also integral to the rewilding project is monitoring the species within the woodland and the management of trails to ensure they have adequate light, and the correct woodland edge flora, as these act as highways for wildlife.

In efforts to restore the lands to their original state, the estate team has adopted the ancient practice of 'coppicing' which has been practiced in the United Kingdom since the Neolithic period. 'Coppicing' involves cutting an acre of broadleaved trees down during the winter, on a rotation of 20-30 years, and allowing them to regenerate. Opening these areas of woodland mimics the actions of Neolithic ancestors and the auroch (an extinct wild cow) who carried out this process for centuries, allowing woodland flora and fauna to thrive.

Lastly, as 98 per cent of wildflower meadows in the UK have been lost, the team has dedicated 20 acres of the estate to create and protect an environment where wildflowers can thrive, acting as a vital food source for bees and butterflies and as a habitat for invertebrates and small mammals. In the winter, the sheep on the estate graze the dense thatch of grasses, which enables fresh seeds to come in contact with the earth and grow the next year’s wildflowers. 

[The estate’s sheep grazing grasses and encouraging the natural sowing of wildflowers.]
The estate’s sheep grazing grasses and encouraging the natural sowing of wildflowers. (Supplied Photo)

Advancing sustainability

The BISC’s commitment to sustainability extends inside the castle walls where numerous waste reduction efforts have been implemented.

Recently, a Sustainability Working Group was formed to bring together employees from across the institution to drive sustainability initiatives. These include working with the Aramark food services team to ensure that 100 per cent of in-house green waste is composted, enhancing recycling facilities within the castle, removing disposable food packaging, and increasing availability of electric travel methods.

On a larger scale, the estate team maintains sustainable reed beds that address sewage waste through natural filtration, making the water safe and clean. To generate renewable energy, a heat recovery pump system located in the castle moat is estimated to generate up to 35 per cent of the castle’s heating requirements, and a proportion of the electricity needed for the estate is generated via the use of around 200 solar panels.

[Aerial photo of the estate]
The Estate’s renewable energy initiatives leverage the existing historical features and natural environment to support modern technology for sustainability. (Supplied Photo)

The environment as an education tool

Allowing students and the public to interact with and learn from the estate team’s sustainability and biodiversity agenda is an integral part of the BISC’s mandate. The BISC Skills Award (BSA), which encourages students to participate in university events and programs for personal development, presents an excellent opportunity for student engagement. Recently, this program has incorporated the estate team’s sustainability and biodiversity initiatives into the curriculum by allowing students to partake in projects including invasive species removal, pond maintenance, rare species seed planting, and the designing of a new student services cottage garden.

The BISC is also dedicated to sharing the estate’s biodiversity and sustainability efforts with the public. One program that showcases this relationship is the Herstmonceux Castle Forest School. The Forest School allows members of the public to engage with the natural environment in the estate’s ancient woodlands, offering all learners opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on experiences in a woodland environment. This program allows the environment itself to serve as an educational tool. 

Improving biodiversity and the adoption of a sustainable mindset at the BISC is reflective of Queen’s steadfast dedication to advancing sustainable development through pursuing the UN’s SDGs. By way of its community and student outreach programs, the BISC has consistently shared its advancements and knowledge in sustainability and biodiversity with the public, providing education and enjoyment to the larger community.

For more information, visit the BISC and Herstmonceux Castle websites.

Learn more about Queen's University's Climate Action Plan.

Inuit cancer patients often face difficult decisions without support far from home

Inuit living in their traditional territory must travel long distances — often with no personal support — for specialized health-care services like cancer care, obstetrics and dialysis.

Inuit in the Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin) region must travel long distances south to receive specialized health-care services. (Janet Jull), Author provided

Inuit are resilient. They have demonstrated self-determination and the ability to navigate and adapt to harsh and changing environments.

Inuit live in many locations including urban environments, although most Inuit in Canada live in the traditional territory called Inuit Nunangat. Inuit who live in Inuit Nunangat must travel long distances south to receive specialized health-care services, such as cancer care, obstetrics and dialysis.

They must navigate complex health systems in major urban centres, often with little or no personal support. These circumstances limit the opportunities of Inuit community members to participate in their health decisions.

When people have opportunities to participate with their health-care providers and to share what is important to them in their health decisions, it is called shared decision making. Shared decision making is identified as a high standard of person-centred care, and supports positive health outcomes.

We are members of a team of Inuit and non-Inuit community service providers and academic health-care researchers who are working on a research project we call “Not Deciding Alone.”

A town in a snowy landscape with a plane flying overhead.
For patients from the Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin) region, the journey to receive cancer care involves negotiating a complex health system and travelling thousands of kilometres to large cities in Ontario. (Janet Jull), Author provided

Our focus is on enhancing opportunities for Inuit to participate in decisions about their health care through the shared decision-making model. Our research approach applies the guiding principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, a system of knowledge and beliefs used to serve the common good through collaborative decision making. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are grounded in caring for and respecting others, and are the foundation for a strengths-based approach to promote Inuit self-determination and self-reliance.

Like many First Nations and Métis populations, Inuit face a high and worsening health burden in relation to others across Canada. Ineffective policies perpetuate these health and social inequities.

Research can help people (community members, health-care providers, policy and decision makers) to identify, understand and address health inequities, that is, differences in health that are unnecessary, avoidable and unjust. We aim to build evidence that Inuit can use to improve their experience in the health system.

Learning about the health-care journey

We conducted a study to understand the experiences of Inuit who travel from remote to urban settings for cancer care. For participants in our study from the Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin) region, the journey to receive cancer care involves negotiating complex health systems and travelling thousands of kilometres from very remote geographic areas to large cities in Ontario.

Our study shows that the journey to receive health care consists of a series of connected events that we describe as a “decision chain.” Participants described themselves as directed, with little or no support, and as seeking opportunities to collaborate with others on the journey to receive health care.

There is a travel burden to access health care for people who live in the northern regions of Canada. For many Inuit, decisions about accessing health care also involve decisions about commuting or moving from remote communities to a major urban centre in the south and leaving dependents, their home, employment and other community roles. The alternative is to opt out of treatment.

While all who live in remote areas of Canada are confronted with difficult decisions related to health-care access, the decision-making of Inuit (and other Indigenous people) is further complicated by factors related to health care. These factors include limited community health resources. For example, in some regions of Canada such as Nunavut, there is limited access or a lack of organized cancer screening programs.

As a result, people need to have an awareness of cancer symptoms and act as self-advocates. In addition, they must rely on a local health system that faces challenges of health-care provider recruitment and retention, and high patient caseloads. Many Inuit must also access and navigate health care in their second language, another health-care challenge and barrier to equitable access and uptake of health care.

Indigenous peoples’ history of negative experiences with the health-care system also impact decisions to seek treatment. Inuit have painful memories about the removal of family members for tuberculosis treatment to hospitals and sanatoria located in unknown southern regions of Canada in the 1950–60s. Inuit must also deal with the intergenerational trauma of residential schools

Support on the health-care journey

People who live in remote areas are identified as being at risk to experience stress because, to receive care, they must leave their family and community supports to travel to the location of care. Research with Indigenous populations who live in remote areas shows that health-care systems do not accommodate the context and logistic complexity of health-care access. Inuit have also been identified to be at increased risk of harms during their transition to urban centres.

The recommendations of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry (MMIWG) call on governments to plan and fund safe, sufficient and readily available transportation in towns and cities with particular consideration of the limited transportation available, especially in fly-in, northern and remote locations.

There is an urgent need to improve opportunities for Inuit to participate in their health decisions. With leadership from Inuit partners, our team is learning how health-care systems can better support collaboration among those who use, deliver and facilitate health care. Inuit need to know that they are not alone on the health-care journey.

We thank the Not Deciding Alone Team for their support and role in the important work that contributed to this article.The Conversation


Janet Jull, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University; Inuit Medical Interpreter Team, Ottawa Health Services Network Inc.; Malaya Zehr, Research Manager, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University, and Mamisarvik Healing Centre, Tungasuvvingat Inuit, Ottawa.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.


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